It was summer 2003 and Nichole was living with friends at the New Jersey Shore. Having just turned 21, she was getting the most out of the beach and the happy hours when her right leg became numb and difficult to control. As the numbness began to creep up her right leg and to her left foot, walking became increasingly difficult. Nichole underwent a series of MRIs, one of which revealed she has a large mass in her thoracic spine. In August of 2003, a surgery at The University of Pennsylvania revealed everyone’s greatest fear, the mass in Nichole’s spine was a spinal cord tumor known as anaplastic astrocytoma. Within weeks, Nichole’s diagnosis was upgraded to a much graver and faster moving cancer, glioblastoma.
Nichole was scheduled to begin her senior year at Ursinus College that fall. But because of the necessity of an aggressive chemo and radiation therapy, Nichole was forced to stay home and complete her first round of treatment. While taking some credits from home under the supervision of some exceptionally caring and understanding instructors, Nichole completed her treatment and entered into a period of stable disease. Nichole returned to Ursinus for the spring semester in January. Despite scattered complications due to the cancer, frequent medical appointments, and difficulty with movement, Nichole expanded her course load and graduated in May 2004 an inspiration to her class, among proud parents, her loving brother, family, and dear friends. Her triumph was rewarded with another summer at the beach with friends.
In August of 2004, Nichole began to experience a form of seizure’s called Aura’s. Medication caused leg function difficult, and although Nichole was dependent on a walker or wheelchair, she was not deterred and remained hopeful and confident and continued to preserve against her disease. On Thursday, April 21st of 2005, Nichole entered the hospital due to a sudden bout of severe pain. What began as a typical hospital stay during her treatment took a devastating turn. Despite a weekend spent with many visitors, alert and improving, by Monday evening Nichole slipped into a coma and Tuesday afternoon, Nichole passed quietly surrounded by family and friends.
Today, Nichole’s battle serves as an example of perseverance and hopefulness to all who have met her or heard her story. Proud family and friends have started this chapter of Malia’s Cord Foundation, INC. to honor her memory and so that one day, a cure for others is found so that no one else should ever feel the devastation of this debilitating kind of cancer.
We miss you, Nichole, and love you always.